Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience | Album Review

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4/5

It’s been seven long years since Justin Timberlake last wowed us with his futuristic sounds, awe inspiring visuals and captivating storytelling. Returning to the musical spotlight after his movie star hiatus, now the golden boy of popular culture claims quite simply that he’s ready. Ready for what you might ask? If you don’t find your answer upon listening to his latest offering The 20/20 Experience, there’s a distinct possibility that your ears might be something to just hang your sunglasses on.

The album’s combination of silky smooth melodies and commercially contrasting beat arrangements proves flawless. Starting the onslaught of pop superiority, “Pusher Love Girl” kicks things off with a simplistic number built for introductory duties. Similar to “Señorita,” the opening cut on the Memphis, Tennessee singer’s Justified debut, it’s a feel-good cupid’s arrow moment that could quite possibly build into a larger-than-life smash. Ending and then re-emerging, the slight instrumental switch up gives you a taste of things to come from JT and Timbaland.

Whilst a relatively young partnership, Timbo and JT have yet to drop the ball as far as their collaborative efforts go. They’ve even gone as far as to change the face of music. Twice. Their experimentation with sound and vision over the years has inspired a new generation of music makers. Seeing them explore familiar [to them at least] barrier-breaking euphonic territories, the way in which Timbo blends interludes in to the original song is still something no one a part of this technologically advanced generation has ever been able to master, or even imitate, quite like him.

This continued ascendancy can be heard on the world music inspired “Don’t Hold The Wall,” with an instrumental so good it wouldn’t matter what JT had to say on it – however, in adept storytelling fashion Timberlake describes a unsatisfied woman while at the same time convincing her that he’s the best in the [romantic] business. After a few on-point vocal samples and atmospheric choruses, you’re left feeling like you’ve been reading a musically investigational issue of a National Geographic whilst sitting aboard the Millennium Falcon during hyperdrive.

Evidently Justin Timberlake is in a happy place right now relationship-wise. Having not so long ago married actress Jessica Biel, his latest compilation of love struck outings trump anything else this side of 2013. Why? Because he’s truly, madly, deeply in love. On songs such as “That Girl,” which hears Timbaland introduce not only JT but also his new instrumental collective The Tennessee Kids, his passion runs deep. Touching upon love at first sight as well as unleashing a few cheesy chat up lines – “But I had to catch you running through my mind all day” – his low key simping is acceptable. It’s even tolerable on the galactic lovers drive that is “Spaceship Coupe,” with its extended and questionably drawn out running time.

Taking the album to a whole other level, Timbaland and JT are at their absolute best when tracks such as “Let The Groove Get In’ and “Tunnel Vision” become extended plays with exit strategy venom. Featuring signature Timbo drum chops and string arrangements, the closing musical compositions are a reminder of what the two did on FutureSex/LoveSounds. Following the blueprint which heard extended versions of “My Love” and “LoveStoned/I Think She Knows (Interlude)” become some of the most listened to moments on Timberlake’s prior LP, there’s no faulting their ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach. The extended plays don’t finish there either; whilst hitting the UK number one spot with it’s standardised version, “Mirrors” gets the interlude remix treatment also.

From start to finish The 20/20 Experience takes you on a journey through sound and imagination. Written in partnership with James Fauntleroy, the obvious upgrade as far as lyrical maturity goes has worked wonders for Timberlake’s return in to the spotlight. Whilst not quite as cohesive a project as FutureSex/LoveSounds, musically it still does enough to cross the lines of the norm and into the extraordinary world of the unknown that the average mainstream artist is scared to approach.

The musically gifted and twisted mad world of TJT [Timbaland/Justin Timberlake] is something that should be studied. Always ahead of the curve, The 20/20 Experience sees the duo craft a daring, soulful pop record with hip-hop tendencies seeped in emotionally-driven songwriting and creative juice. ‘Nuff said.

Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
Label: RCA Records
Released: March 19, 2013
Buy: iTunes / Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

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